Cottonseed oil is a product obtained from the plant species known as Gossypium hirsutum and Gossypium herbaceum. In particular, it is used for cooking, although it also has medicinal and cosmetic applications.
From the 1880s it was incorporated into the American diet to position itself as one of the most widely used vegetable oils in the United States. However, at present it is not so popular in the market, since it was displaced by other varieties, such as soy or corn.
In any case, it is an oil that stands out for being a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are associated with cardiovascular health. It is also a versatile product that can be included in the diet in many ways. What do the studies say? What are your possible risks?
Cottonseed Oil Uses
Cottonseed oil is used regularly in the food industry as it has the ability to extend the shelf life of food. It can be found in products like potato chips, pastries, mayonnaise, margarine, and salad dressings.
It is even preferred in baked goods, as it provides moisture and texture. Other foods in which it is found are the following:
- Oriental food.
- Whipped toppings.
- Spicy foods.
Among other things, it should be noted that this product is also used for non-food purposes, such as oil lamps, candles, insecticides and laundry detergents. It also has some medicinal and cosmetic uses.
Cottonseed oil Benefits
The benefits of cottonseed oil are largely attributed to its nutritional quality. Specifically, it is estimated that it provides only 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, that is, 16% of the recommended daily intake. In order to reduce cardiovascular risk, bodies such as the American Heart Association suggest choosing oils with these characteristics in terms of saturated fat.
Now, it also contains 7 grams of polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon, which gives it benefits for heart health. To be more exact, it contributes 2% of the daily intake of omega 3 fatty acids and 58% of omega 6.
To a lesser extent, it also contains monounsaturated fat, which is recommended in the diet as a supplement to stimulate an increase in HDL or “good” cholesterol. It is also a source of vitamin E or alpha-tocopherol, a key nutrient for cell metabolism and disease prevention. Is there evidence on its health effects? Let’s see!
1. Anti-inflammatory effects
There are no studies that prove that cottonseed oil has anti-inflammatory properties. However, there is evidence on the anti-inflammatory effects of monounsaturated fats. In that order of ideas, it is believed that this variety of oil affects the decrease of inflammatory chemicals in the blood.
Its monounsaturated fat content is 18%, but it can increase up to 50% when partially hydrogenated. In any case, it is a nutritional supplement that acts within the framework of a healthy diet.
2. Protection of cardiovascular health
The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids contained in this oil are linked to a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular events. A review article published in the Cochrane Library suggests that this type of lipid lowers LDL cholesterol levels and increases HDL cholesterol levels. In turn, this reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Still, keep in mind that cottonseed oil has more saturated fats than other vegetable oils, such as olive. Therefore, its consumption in excess can have an opposite effect. So, it should be used sparingly; only when it is not possible to choose another oil more friendly to the heart.
3. Antitumor activity
It is not an alternative cancer therapy. However, some research has made relevant findings on the benefits of cottonseed oil against this disease.
A study shared in Anticancer Research determined that gossypol – a natural toxin that is present in this oil before refining – helped suppress cancer cells that showed resistance to multiple drugs.
Meanwhile, a study in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics found that the substance was also helpful in reducing tumor growth in prostate cancer patients. For now, it is an issue that is still being investigated, so more evidence is required.
4. Skin care
The use of cottonseed oil that is not considered controversial has to do with skin care. Given its concentration of vitamin E and fatty acids, this ingredient provides the following benefits:
- Increased permeability of the skin (a quality that helps the skin absorb other products better).
- Protection of the skin barrier.
- Wound healing.
Cottonseed oil risks
The risks associated with the use of cottonseed oil have to do with its gossypol content. This substance is a natural toxin that gives it its particular yellow color.
Among other things, it also protects the plant against insects. And although it has been studied for its antitumor potential, it has been found to have the following negative effects:
- Problems in the gestation period, including early embryonic development.
- Hepatic injury.
- Shortness of breath.
The possibility that some people have an allergy from the external use of cottonseed oil is not ruled out. Therefore, it is recommended to do a small sensitivity test before using the product in its entirety. If after 24 hours there is no sign of allergy, it can be applied without problems.
There are other more recommended oils
For a long time, cottonseed oil stood out for its properties, its price and its versatility. While it is true that it has some benefits, its possible risks and its concentration of saturated fat should not be ignored. Therefore, if it is about choosing a good oil, it is best to opt for other varieties, such as olive or sunflower.
Even so, a large part of the commercial presentations of this oil are considered safe and do not pose a problem if used moderately. The product should be stored in an airtight container, away from direct sunlight, in a cool place.